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The Money Weapon

One of the more effective demonstrations that money is useful is an Army program where U.S. soldiers in Iraq tap a fund that bypasses bureaucracy to solve short-term Iraqi needs for clothing and food and win hearts and minds in the process.

Problem is this money, which comes from something called the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), has been used in Iraq for larger scale reconstruction projects, as Dana Hedgpeth and Sarah Cohen report. The program, popular with the Army, is governed in a field manual called "Money as a Weapon System."

Our readers who comment recognize both the practicality and the problems with this largely unregulated (and therefore easy to use) kitty. Some call it bribery; others see it as helping; several complain, asking why the U.S. continues to pour billions into Iraq when its oil fields are working again and it has a budget surplus of $50 billion.

We'll start with markswisshelm, who said that "As far as Iraqi rat holes for American taxpayer's hard earned funds go this one is pretty small potatoes. It appears to be doing some small amount of good probable because Administration cronies don't seem to be able to get their oily mitts on most of it."

gkam seemed to agree, saying, "Yes, it's bribery perhaps, but much better than the bribes we give to the rich crooks, that money stolen by contractors, and the terrible waste of using it for more killing... If we can buy our way out of McCain's 100-year commitment, it'll be cheap."

But sofac wrote that "...CERP funds are one of the militarys best tools in the current conflict. The problem is the current misuse by some, not all, who have that money availabe... When used correctly, the cash can be very beneficial in reducing violence and allowing safe access for US troops in dangerous areas."

Raft said, "I'm tired of hearing how well everything is going in Iraq. There is one simple measure of success or not in Iraq. When the two million refugees start coming home in large numbers then that will be success..."

thuctho complained that "Iraq has $79 billions in the bank of New York collecting interest. They also sitting on top of many large oil fields. My tax should be spent here in America."

Pearl77 said, "This is the real "surge" - paying your enemies not to fight you... We borrow money from China to pay Iraqis not to fight us or themselves. Brilliant, Dubya!"

rloach wrote, "With $79 billion surplus it is time for the Iraqi government to stand up and cease being a bloodsucker on American funds and people. This is like paying all the bill for the richest guy in the group. while America goes into debt to help Iraq, the Iraqi government is building cash reserves. Enough of this nonsense."

kkrimmer said, "...The Surge is "working" partly because of new troops but the bigger reasons are : 1) the US is paying the warlords $$$$$ and 2) al-Sadr has told his militias to stand down. Let's get the whole story."

ScottinNC suggested that "CERP funds may represent an effective counterinsurgency weapon, and it seems fair to compensate Iraqis who have suffered under the occupation. Unfortunately, this approach makes the Iraqi economy more dependent on American cash and isn't an efficient way to create the infrastructure that is prerequisite to economic development..."

nallcando said that "The country of Iraq that the Republicans attacked for oil, is costing us more to bomb then rebuild it, than what we pay for gas and oil, at the pumps here in the US! What an absloutly stupid idea this was....A quagmire of billions of US TAX dollars, down the drain.."

MPatalinjug asked, "...Why should the U.S. military bribe Iraqis?... And just imagine what $2.8 billion of U.S. taxpayer money can do to repair and maintain America's infrastructure of roads and bridges. As soon as possible, this Commander's Emergency Response Fund should be shut down immediately."

blackjack3 said, "Winning the hearts and now "buying" the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. This policy can backfire when the government of Iraq cannot or will not step in to take the American's place at the cash dispenser table..."

rowens1 worried that "If you give a man $10, you have helped him for a day. If you teach him to solicit and receive, you have helped him become a ward for life."

We'll close with johnbsmrk, who said, "The big secret about why the insurgency has been tamped down. We've put the insurgents on the payroll. I don't have any particular objection to this if it stops our guys and ordinary Iraqis being killed but please don't claim it's solved the problem..."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  August 11, 2008; 7:34 AM ET
Categories:  Iraq  
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Posted by: Sillana2 | August 12, 2008 4:47 AM | Report abuse

I gave a young guy headed for boot camp my Buck knife tonight. I said the way things are going you might be wearing green. He said I'll be wearing blue. He's 18 and headed for the Air Force. There's a whole story about that knife and now there will be a whole new story about it, his story. I told him to take it, it could save your life someday. Steel beats pills all so he can forget what matters. Don't forget your knife. Now I'll need to find my other knife.

Posted by: Boss302 | August 11, 2008 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Prozac is the military's secret weapon according to Time. Money is a far better antidepressant, at least for me. The dollar speaks for itself and Prozac has side effects. "In clinical studies, antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of PROZAC or any other antidepressant in a child, adolescent, or young adult must balance this risk with the clinical need."
That's why a fell in love with a woman at first sight and I fell in love with Jim Beam in 1993. If you find a woman with money, the depression problem is no problem. The Jim Beam is another matter all together. Those were the good old nights and the train kept a rolling all night long. The woman is complicated, so I'm here alone with Jim thinking it over. What might of been and could of been are water under the bridge. The bridge is still there, Beam and all. It's a family tradition and it never stops. It's happy hour so I think I'll pour another Beam and strike a blow for liberty and enjoy the view here.

Posted by: Boss302 | August 11, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Aren't you missing the real point of this money. You have these insurgents, terrorist or whatever you would like to call them hiding in peoples homes, and public buildings. If the US has to go in there to remove them and make the place safe again for all then it is likely that something is going to get damaged in the process.

Now if we just leave after that it will be remembered that Americans destroyed that building, street, library, mosque or whatever. However if we rebuild it better than it was before we are remembered as the ones who removed the bad guys and respected the locals enough to give them their building back in one piece. Now they have jobs and a home. That gives the insurgents less ground to stand on against the US.

As with any amount of money... when there is no over sight or accountability there will be those who abuse and misuse the power. That does not mean that it does not do good.

My advise try and view this without hating America first and figuring out how terrible you can view it.

Posted by: Jim | August 11, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Readers, who note with dismay, that for what we've spent in Iraq, we could've bought their oil, mistake the Bushies for socialist Democrats. Buying into Republican ideology entitles you to pay their bills not benefit from their governance.

Posted by: jhbyer | August 11, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

This is actually a viable strategy, and I don't see it as bribery. It's rebuilding the social infrastructure from the bottom up. Regardless of winning hearts and minds, it's helping those who need the help most, and who are unlikely to ever see but a dribble of the 80 Billion in the Iraqi government coffers as it trickles down. The actual soldiers on the ground can probably ascertain best who needs and deserves help and what local projects need a financial boost. I think the way to avoid corruption is to operate this program at the battalion and company level.

I'm against the war, but I'd rather leave behind a stable Iraq than an unstable one when we withdraw. Petraeus literally wrote the book on counter-insurgency, and this is one of the tools of beating a counter-insurgency. If we're going to have a time table for withdrawal, let's not tie General Petraeus' hands.

Posted by: Marcos El Malo | August 11, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

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